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Oracle and Sun Ray finally get some love from VDI experts

Oracle VDI and Sun Ray Thin Clients have finally caught Gabe Knuth and Brian Madden’s attention, and it’s worth considering – even in Windows shops.

Many readers have pointed out over the years that Brian Madden and I routinely leave Sun Microsystems products out of our desktop virtualization discussions.

When we bring up thin clients, we’re accused of leaving Sun Ray thin clients out of the thin client discussion, and when we write about desktop virtualization platforms on or, frustrated Sun users typically post something about how displeased they are that we don’t mention Sun’s products.

We are guilty as charged, and a few years ago Brian admitted this in an article titled “Please tell me why I should care about Sun.” But Oracle piqued our interest during BriForum London last week, and we are now officially paying attention to Oracle, Sun Ray thin clients, and the Oracle VDI solution.

(Keep in mind that we’ve yet to actually get our hands on the product or do any real-world testing, but that has been added to the short list of things to do in the next few months. Craig Bender, I’ll be in touch!)

Perhaps the biggest reason that Sun was off our radar is that they were never really “out there” in the community. From our Windows-world perspective, anything from Sun was a Solaris thing, and it always seemed to us that the people using Sun products, even if it was Sun VDI, were Solaris people at heart. In many ways, the last thing we heard from Sun with regards to a Windows-based desktop virtualization solution was when they purchased and subsequently sold off the Windows portion of Tarantella’s Secure Global Desktop.

Now that Oracle is in charge, things are changing in the marketing department. In fact, Oracle sponsored BriForum and had a bunch of Sun Rays sitting on a table. That’s a big step!

How Oracle VDI works

Oracle breaks Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) down into three tiers: Client, Session, and Virtual Desktop.

The Client tier consists of the endpoints, both hardware and software. Sun Ray thin clients fit into the Client tier. There are hardware and software models of Sun Rays, and explaining all the capabilities of them would require a much longer article. Still, the Smart Card authentication approach, combined with pure zero-client thin client hardware makes them a capable, established, and even (to some degree) an exciting solution.

The Virtual Desktop tier consists of the hardware, storage, and virtualization software that hosts virtual desktops.

The Session tier is essentially the connection broker that connects the Client tier to the Virtual Desktop tier. Oracle VDI fits squarely into the Session tier, an area  I was largely uninformed about up until last week.

Here are some important details about Oracle VDI:

  • You do not need Sun Ray thin clients to use Oracle VDI as your connection broker
  • Oracle VDI (the connection broker part) runs on Solaris, which is a tough pill to swallow in the Windows world.
  • Oracle VirtualBox is included with Oracle VDI as the hypervisor, but you can also use Hyper-V R2, RDS, and VMware ESX. That’s right, even RDS is on that list. I’ve also heard that support for Citrix XenApp is in the works, but that’s an unconfirmed report.
  • Oracle VDI supports Sun Storage 7000 and Solaris 10 storage systems from both VirtualBox and Hyper-V.
  • Oracle VDI supports Windows XP, Vista, and 7 on any of these platforms. Yes, Solaris and Linux are also supported, but only when running on VirtualBox.

The bottom line is that Oracle VDI supports everything you need, at least at a high level. We still have to get our hands on it and play with it, but on paper, it’s a contender in the VDI marketplace.

Look for articles in the near future that cover how Sun Rays fit into the Oracle VDI solution (and how they can be used outside it, too) and I’ll take a hands-on look at the solution in my lab. Keep in mind, that I’ll be doing this without having ever installed Solaris. If it turns out that I can do it, you should be able to as well!

Gabe Knuth is an independent industry analyst and blogger, known throughout the world as "the other guy" at He has been in the application delivery space for over 12 years and has seen the industry evolve from the one-trick pony of terminal services to the application and desktop virtualization of today. Gabe's focus tends to lean more toward practical, real-world technology in the industry, essentially boiling off the hype and reducing solutions to their usefulness in today's corporate environments.

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I'm ready and waiting ;)

Sun Ray technology has been available since, what? 2000? and you guys are now maybe going to check it out?

About time!